I’ve always been a self-proclaimed jack of all trades. Jumping from project to project, client to client, from client website to Business Manager to Slack and back around again. My brain is in flow, fingers continuously typing, and eyes tracking pixel by pixel.
But… Yes, there’s a but.
…it shouldn’t be that way.
And that’s where communication has begun to save the day. I believe it also might save yours.
Early this year, I began to tighten up my workflow. I dove deep into where I was wasting the most time and began asking myself the tough questions. Why am I burnt out? Where am I temporarily focusing when I should be in deep focus? Where is my work lacking? Why is it lacking?
Asking those questions shone a light on an uncomfortable truth.
My communication habits were becoming lackadaisical. I wasn’t answering emails with the best context that I could, my Slack messages were not specific and to the point, and I was bouncing from channel to channel at odd moments of the workday.
So I set out to fix it. Disclaimer: I’m still in the midst of fixing it. Here’s what I found.
1. Be direct.
As I reviewed hundreds of messages, I found myself being slightly reckless with my messaging. I wasn’t directly speaking to team members/clients as clearly as I needed to be. My language was not direct and easy to follow at times. Worst of all, I was having to send follow up messages to re-communicate certain things I should have done in the first place.
Naturally, I went back to the drawing board. I began writing templated messages in my notes to keep myself focused on building better habits in the way I wrote emails and Slack updates. I forced myself to use only direct language while addressing problems and projects alike. Needless to say, it worked wonderfully.
2. Ask better questions + provide context.
Always, always, always ask leading questions to gain the information you need…and please… if you’re aware that the question might not result in exactly what you’re looking for, add context. Always.
How not to ask a question: Hey Jess, would you be able to send me over the design assets for (insert client)?
How to ask a question: Hey Jess, would you be able to send me the vector logos, brand colors, and any other design assets we might have for (insert client)? I’m currently working on the website header and footer and having editable vector files will help me greatly.
See what happened there? The first time around, nobody would have known “why” I needed the the design assets, let alone if assets would have shown up and I was looking at low-res PNGs of the logo I needed, the fault would have been on me for not specifying what exactly I needed. Always go a little deeper. Share a better reason as to what you’re requesting, asking for feedback on, or getting clarity on a request.
3. Keep it simple.
Being wordy is unnecessary, and if I’m calling myself out, I found myself being too lengthy in my emails, constantly. If I had bothered to spend a few minutes doing slight revisions, I could have cut 25% and still gotten the exact same point across. Be succinct, cut the fluff, use bullet points when needed, and don’t be afraid to take a minute and check through where you could have been clearer with fewer words.
That’s it. Be direct, ask better questions, and keep it simple. Practice those three things day after day and I promise…no, I pinkie promise that your communication skills will get a refreshing upgrade.